I Owe my Life to You



I Owe my Life to You


The events after Ronald was shot down on the morning of D-day.



Temporal Coverage



Two printed sheets


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B[Author]RidingRHv30001, B[Author]RidingRHv30002


[underlined] I OWE MY LIFE TO YOU [/underlined]

At two o’clock in the morning of the 6th. June, 1944, a German shell shot down F/Lt. Ronald Riding’s Lancaster. He was twenty-two years old and his mission, on that night prior to the bombardment, was to locate the German 21st. Armoured Division. Three members of the crew were killed when the bomber was hit and four others survived by baling out of the aircraft.

Ronald found himself alone on the ground somewhere near Mailleraye and quite close to Caudebec. He lost his flying boots when his parachute opened so he was in his stockinged feet. Thus began his great adventure. “I walked in my bare feet, which wasn’t very easy, and then I saw a farm. The man did not want to let me in, but his wife standing behind him said “Yes, yes, we must give him something to eat’,”. At daybreak Ronald set out again but he decided to hide up during the day and walk during the night. The following evening he knocked at the door of Mme. Guegan. “She simply told me to come in and she gave me something to eat and drink.”

He stayed at Mme. Guegan’s home for a few days during which time the Maquis, of which Mme. Guegan’s son Jean was a member, were informed by London that Ronald was an English flyer and not a German spy. “In order to establish my identity I had to state where I lived in Manchester and I had to list the names of several London Underground stations.” His identity now verified, Ronald was now accepted by the Robert Leblanc Maquis near Port-Audemer. Infortunately [sic], one of the band was arrested and fearing that he might reveal the whereabouts of their hide-out, his comrades dispersed: Ronald remembers that this occurred on the 14th, July.

After staying for some time at the ‘Maison Blanche’ (a code name?), Ronald and another flyer, John, decided to leave to try to join the Allied lines. Then at the end of July they met M. and Mme. Jules Joigne at Brevedent.

“My father has spotted them late that evening. They were consulting a map printed on a piece of cloth. My father came back into the house and said to my mother, “They are English”. The next day he came across them again and brought them back to the house. I was four years old at the time and my sister was sixteen.” said Guy and Eliane, the children of M. and Mme. Joigne. It was at their house that Ronald and his friend John, were hidden for some time. Then they made contact with the escape network.

MM. Jean Dufay and Jean Breard came to fetch them in a horse-drawn carriage and brought them to Thiberville. “I rode ahead on my bicycle,” recalled M. Prévost. “We came across two German policeman [sic] and I can tell you I was dead scared.” But nothing more untoward happened before they arrived at the home of M. and Mme. Prévost who took it upon themselves to hide them. However, their house was very exposed so Ronald and John decided to continue on their way. They were taken into the convent in Thiberville for several days where their best hiding place was in a cupboard, but Ronald and John kept in good spirits in spite of their misfortunes.

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[underlined] 2 [/underlined]

They were then lodged at the home of Mme. Sénéchal, first of all at the butcher’s shop in town and then in a small, isolated house where they made the acquaintance of the Vandamme family and of André l’Hotelin: “the children were going to play football with them to pass the time” recalled one who remembered them. The liberation of Thiberville was now near and Ronald and John waited for the arrival of the Canadian troops on 24th. August, and shortly afterwards they returned to England. John was killed on another mission and Ronald continued his operations until the end of the war.

[underlined] MY DEAR FRENCH FRIENDS [/underlined].

On Tuesday, at the time of the ceremony organised in his honour at the Thiberville Town Hall, Ronald Riding could not conceal his emotion. “Thank you all. It has been wonderful to return to Normandy to take part in the ceremonies marking the 50th. Anniversary of the Liberation and to be re-united with my dear French friends. I received the same welcome as I did fifty years ago when I knocked on a door and you said to me, “Come in Monsieur.” I must express my gratitude to the French families who gave me food and concealed me at the risk of their own lives. I owe my life to you. Thank you and Long Live France.”

[underlined] REMEBRANCE AND FRIENDSHIP [/underlined]

In his speech, the Mayor of Thiberville, M. Bessirard, surrounded by his Council, representatives of the Police and Fire Brigade, emphasised the honour for the members of the community to receive a liberator on the day following the 50th. Anniversary of ‘the longest day’. And he added, “It was due to thousands and thousands of people like you M. Riding, and like your parents Mme. Guerin, and like you M. Prévost and you M. Dufay, that we reached this longest day whose success regained for us our honour and liberty and gave us our future.”

Then the Mayor presented the town medallion to M. Riding, M. Dufay, M. Prévost, M. Joinge and posthumously to M. Bréard: “that it shows to all of us a sign of gratitude, remembrance and friendship.

M. Bessirard then invited his guests to join him in a toast to the friendship that was so evident today. Ronald posed for photographs and answered the many questions that were put to him. Ronald’s feelings were a mixture of joy and sadness, but more than this understandable emotion, he was carried away by the joy of finding himself in France again among his dear friends.

May this day remain forever engraved on the hearts of all of us.


“I Owe my Life to You,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 13, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/37407.

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